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Statistical Discrimination or Prejudice? A Large Sample Field Experiment

  • Michael Ewens
  • Bryan Tomlin
  • Liang Choon Wang

A model of racial discrimination provides testable implications for two features of statistical discriminators: differential treatment of signals by race and heterogeneous experience that shapes perception. We construct an experiment in the U.S. rental apartment market that distinguishes statistical discrimination from taste-based discrimination. Responses from over 14,000 rental inquiries with varying applicant quality show that landlords treat identical information from applicants with African-American and white sounding names differently. This differential treatment varies by neighborhood racial composition and signal type in a way consistent with statistical discrimination and in contrast to patterns predicted by a model of taste-based discrimination.

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Paper provided by Monash University, Department of Economics in its series Monash Economics Working Papers with number 23-12.

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Length: 57 pages
Date of creation: Sep 2012
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:mos:moswps:2012-23
Contact details of provider: Postal: Department of Economics, Monash University, Victoria 3800, Australia
Phone: +61-3-9905-2493
Fax: +61-3-9905-5476
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  1. Kate L. Antonovics & Brian G. Knight, 2004. "A New Look at Racial Profiling: Evidence from the Boston Police Department," NBER Working Papers 10634, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Hanson, Andrew & Hawley, Zackary, 2011. "Do landlords discriminate in the rental housing market? Evidence from an internet field experiment in US cities," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 70(2), pages 99-114.
  3. John A. List, 2004. "The Nature and Extent of Discrimination in the Marketplace: Evidence from the Field," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 119(1), pages 49-89.
  4. Jennifer L. Doleac & Luke C.D. Stein, 2013. "The Visible Hand: Race and Online Market Outcomes," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 123(11), pages F469-F492, November.
  5. Antonovics, Kate & Arcidiacono, Peter & Walsh, Randall, 2003. "Games and Discrimination: Lessons From the Weakest Link," University of California at San Diego, Economics Working Paper Series qt3871w41j, Department of Economics, UC San Diego.
  6. Ahmed, Ali & Hammarstedt, Mats, 2007. "Discrimination in the housing market — a field experiment on the internet," CAFO Working Papers 2007:1, Centre for Labour Market Policy Research (CAFO), School of Business and Economics, Linnaeus University.
  7. Ayres, Ian & Siegelman, Peter, 1995. "Race and Gender Discrimination in Bargaining for a New Car," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(3), pages 304-21, June.
  8. Siddique, Zahra, 2008. "Caste Based Discrimination: Evidence and Policy," IZA Discussion Papers 3737, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  9. Ali M. Ahmed & Lina Andersson & Mats Hammarstedt, 2010. "Can Discrimination in the Housing Market Be Reduced by Increasing the Information about the Applicants?," Land Economics, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 86(1), pages 79-90.
  10. Bosch, Mariano & Carnero, M. Angeles & Farré, Lídia, 2010. "Information and discrimination in the rental housing market: Evidence from a field experiment," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 40(1), pages 11-19, January.
  11. Daniel Paravisini & Veronica Rappoport & Enrichetta Ravina, 2010. "Risk Aversion and Wealth: Evidence from Person-to-Person Lending Portfolios," NBER Working Papers 16063, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Balsa, Ana I. & McGuire, Thomas G., 2001. "Statistical discrimination in health care," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 20(6), pages 881-907, November.
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